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Back Buzz - October 20, 2003

pumping heartCafe Rouge, 383-385 Ecclesall Road, Hunters Bar, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

One recent afternoon, as we were strolling down Ecclesall Road thirsty for a caffeine fix, we stopped into Cafe Rouge, which is primarily a French restaurant. Nevertheless the staff were quite hospitable when we said we just wanted coffees, and we were immediately seated in the bar by the front window.

Cafe Rouge, part of a chain of French bistros, features clean wood floors, pleasant art on the walls, quiet jazz in the background, and a very orange and yellow colour scheme as opposed to "rouge" -- although the staff were dressed up in white and black with red ties -- a good colour combination, I thought, as I was sitting there in my red top and my temporarily black hair (due to a misinterpretation of a box of "dark brown" hair colouring...but that's another story). The bartender who was also acting as barista had no problem, as many English baristas do, with our order of two double macchiatos. He served them in cappuccino cups with a stiff dollop of foam haphazardly plunked on top -- but then again he was primarily a bartender, so you wouldn't expect the panache of a proper rosetta, much less of a smooth cloud of foam mingling with traces of crema. The coffee itself seemed slightly over-roasted, imparting a mildly sour taste, but at least it was good and strong. My partner suspected the beans might be from Costa Rica, which would account for a slightly acidic edge.

On the table in front of us was a small bowl of packets of sucre blanc and sucre brun, just to remind us we were in a French establishment. Fortunately, as you do in real French coffee bars, we didn't have to pay extra to sit down -- which, considering I'd just taken a 2-hour walk, I was quite happy about. As we sat and sipped our drinks we watched as the specials board was being updated for the day: cheese and onion souffle, moules Provencal, roast vegetable and Gruyére tart, penne in creamy chilli sauce with parmesan. Mmm, sounds like my kind of food.

The odd thing about the bar was that in this flatter part of Sheffield the floor seemed to be sloping downward toward the pavement, which caused our cigarettes to roll off the ashtray. As I was sitting closest to the window I felt as if I were sinking slowly into Ecclesall Road, while Andrew was probably feeling pleasantly taller than me for a change. The view across the road was of the Sheffield Clinic of Complementary Medicine and part of Sheffield Hallam University, with the lovely Yorkshire stone buildings surrounded by heaps of colourful autumn leaves. I once read that Sheffield has more trees per capita than any other city in Britain, and in the middle of autumn all that lush foliage, whether brandished by the trees or carpeting the ground, makes the city quite gorgeous.

And just having used the word brandish reminds me of an e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend from earlier this year:

This morning in the Times I read a review by Manohla Dargis of the film Laurel Canyon. Dargis describes one of the actresses as "brandishing an Israeli accent." If accents can be brandished, wouldn't it follow that spices, seasonings, and garnishes could be brandished? And if you were to put spices, seasonings, and garnishes in your salad, couldn't you technically brandish your salad?

If you can brandish your salad and garnish your salad and garnish your wages, can you brandish your wages?

If you were to brandish an accent in self defense, I'd imagine that an acute or grave accent would provide the best hand-held weapon and would be recognized by attackers carrying a wide variety of native languages. An accent circumflex might provide the greatest range, if you are versed at throwing a boomerang, but the curvy tilde wouldn't cause much damage.

I've been wondering about the relative utility of knowing how to defend yourself against a shark versus an extraterrestrial. An attack by any shark other than the uncommon land shark (or loan shark, perhaps) is a risk only for the relative minority of people who choose to go scuba diving, surfing or bathing in the ocean. They choose to take on the risk and can inform themselves from other sources about how to deal with a shark. An extraterrestrial encounter, however, might happen to anyone at any time, so instructions like "go for the eyes" rightfully belong in the book and calendar of worst-case scenarios, with which everyone should become familiar.

I didn't consider an extraterrestrial shark, though.

How does one fling an ümlaut? I would think that could make a good stealth weapon, seeing as how you could never be sure just where the two dots would land.

But I think the most dangerous special character would be the ç. You'd probably need a special license to brandish one of those.

The only problem with "going for the eyes" of some extraterrestrials is that it might be difficult to determine just where the eyes are, especially if you're being attacked by a luminous blob. I suppose this might be where a concealed ümlaut might come in handy.